Saturday, 24 November 2012

Tulasi Vivaha - Uthana Dwadashi
This extended festival of lights has always enchanted and enthralled me since childhood. Amma would say " keep some crackers for Tulsi Lagna" and we would obey, eagerly waiting for the D day. I would invariably ask amma whom Tulasi is getting married to and she would smile and say " Damodara i.e Krishna ". Then she would narrate the story. 

This is the story of Vrinda, the daughter of giant named Nemi and the faithful wife of demon Jalandhar. Being born in ocean, Jalandhar claimed supremacy over the ocean and all the treasures churned out  during Samudra Manthan. He declared war over Gods and could not be conquered because of the boon that he would be free from death till his wife Vrinda was chaste. Vishnu, in order to kill Jalandhar, assumes her husband's form and beguiles Vrinda. When she realises this, Vrinda cursed Vishnu to become a stone ( Saligrama ). Vishnu regrets his action and in admiration of her impeccable chastity and piety, transfers her into the sacred Tulasi plant and promises to marry her annually on this day of Kartik month. 

The story is registered in my mind along with the heavenly aroma and the taste of laddige prasada amma would prepare on that day. ( yeah, I will give your the recipe!.)

The Tulasi plant and Parijatha flower connected with our rich culture and vibrant heritage have always remained my favorites.  Parijatha with its divine and pristine beauty and Tulasi with her love for Lord Krishna and with the  her medicinal value have been on the top of my priority list of home plants. It has been my cherished  dream to have a big Parijata tree in my aangan along with rows and rows of Tulasi plant.

Alas!  I always proposed and thieves disposed. On many occasions whenever I chanced upon Tulasi seeds, plants or saplings at resorts, gardens and friends' houses, I would beg or borrow and bring them home. Living in a west facing house, I was always forced  to plant the seeds and saplings  on the compound in planter box.

I would squeal in delight when rows of saplings would take life. But invariably in a week or so, to my chagrin,  my saplings would start disappearing. I had  neighbors who would put up beautiful pots and plants on footpath without any problem and here I was losing every single sapling to these thieves. But like a never- say-die Trivikrama and Bhageeratha I  would go on and on with my efforts and face the same results!

As if this was not enough, I had this " Gow Matha ", always pulling out my little "babies", if by any chance left by those thieves with her long tongue right in front of my eyes, disregarding my shouts and threats. I am really dismayed by their attitude and judgement! I have seen in many areas, besides their huge gardens, these "RICH(?)" people will occupy footpaths with  mini gardens and these "holy cows" sitting by the side of these gardens lazily munching with semi closed lids, never daring to even glance at the plants. Is it fear of "RICH N POWERFUL"? Naah! Methinks she just loves the taste of our little angels,  put up with all the love of our heart and soul !

I would try to deter her with some prickly boundaries. No sir! She would care two hoots for such silly tricks! As a last resort one day I put some big glass pieces as boundaries for my planter boxes. Hey! Don't look so flabbergasted! Genuinely I meant no harm, just wanted my kids to grow! Don't take side with her, she was not as innocent as she looked. I stood there when she  arrived and we both stared at each other. She would look at me and then at the glass boundary and at the plants beyond ! Did I see a glint of amusement, sarcasm or was it an indulgent motherly look  at we selfish human beings  in her eyes? Whatever -  she decided not to pursue and left me alone with my plants since then.

Before I could heave  a sigh of relief and hope that all is well, this extraordinary incident happened.  One evening around 7.30, both myself and my husband Prakash were talking  in the balcony in the first floor. Suddenly Prakash looked down and exclaimed " Look! somebody is lifting your Tulasi pot!" This fellow beat everybody else in the game! Instead of plant, he had lifted the whole pot and before I could come out of my dismay and shout, he just coolly walked off !

I pulled Prakash's hand and dragged him down, pushed him on to  his bike and hopped behind him in my nightie.For 5-10 minutes we had totally lost any trace of him. But soon we could spot him walking in the next cross, holding the pot to his chest. As Prakash drove his bike by his side, I jumped from the bike, ran across and held him by the collar of his jerkin like a Jhansi Ki Rani!
All the anger and frustration towards my unknown thieves came surging as I gave him a sound  piece of my mind. So stunned was he at being caught and at my verbal tirade that he even forgot to close his open mouth. By this time a few passersby had gathered, who were both angry at his misdemeanors  and bemused at my histrionics and  heroism! Like a trophy I carried my Tulasi back home a midst much fanfare from my husband and kids. But since then I have almost given up the hope in the face of such onslaught by these "petty" thieves, and my dream of having my little rows of Tulasi has remained just that... A dream...

One day... May be one day.............

             LADDIGE          ( Groundnut and Hurigadale Laddu )

This is sych a dekicious and mouth watering dish, hardly time consuming and so easy to make that even beyond this f estival, I always prepare it which is relished by my family and friends with delightful glee.

Ingredients :

Roasted and pounded Groundnuts      :    2 cups ( They should be pounded into big pieces,size of hurigadale  )

Hurigadale                                       :    2 cups
Jaggery powder                                :    1 1/2 cups
Ghee                                               :    1  cup                      
Elaichi powder                                  :    1 tea spoon

Preparation           :

In a thick bottomed kadai heat ghee and jaggery powder only till jaggery melts. Remove from the heat. Add elaichi powder, ounded groundnut, hurigadale and mix well. Wait till the heat recedes and then roll into laddoos.


Methi Pulav - Avarekalu and Menthe Soppina Pulao

Ingredients   :

Basumati Rice          2     cups
Ghee or Refined oil  2 tablespoons

Avarekalu                                1     cup
Chopped Menthe Soppu       1     bunch
finely chopped onion             2                        
Sugar     ½     teaspoon
salt to taste

                For Masala  :

Green chillies                            5-6
Pudina( Mint ) leaves              1 cup
Coriander leaves.                     1/2 cup
Ginger                                        1 small piece
Garlic  ( optional )                    2 cloves
Cinnamon                                 1 tiny piece
Elaichi                                        2
Cloves                                        3-4
Turmeric Powder                     1/2 teaspoon
Poppy seeds.                            1 teaspoon

 Preparation :

Wash and drain the Basmati rice before ½ an hour and keep aside.
  • Heat water.
  • Grind all the masala ingredients to a fine paste.
  • In a thick bottomed pan or kadai heat the ghee and saute the finely chopped onion.
  • Add menthe soppu for 2-3 minutes. Then add the masala paste and fry for 4-5 minutes.
  • Next add avarekalu and  the soaked rice and mix well. 
  • To this add 3 cups of hot water. ( Remember, since the rice is already soaked and the pulav tastes well only when the grains are separated, rice and water should be in the ratio of 1 : 1.5 ) 
  • Add salt and sugar and mix well.
  • Shift this to a vessel and cook in a pressure cooker for 4 whistles. 
  • Let the steam go completely and then only open the lid. Mix well and serve with cucumber raita.

Nuchinunde and Sandige Huli
This is a royal dish generally prepared on the occasion of Devara Samaradhane before
wedding and nuchinunde is also prepared on the occasion of Nagara Panchami. There is a wrong notion, rather hesitation to prepare it on other occasions with a feeling that it is a tedious process. Though it can be a little time consuming, with a little advance planning and  preparation one can enjoy this special dish on Sundays and holidays too. Why on a holiday? 
Because the meals would be so sumptuous and filling that one doesn't feel like working after eating this! So go ahead and enjoy! Happy cooking and happier eating!

Prep Time         :  30 Minutes
Cooking Time    : 30 Minutes

Ingredients :

For Nuchinunde  :

1. Chana dal  ( kadale bele )                             2 cups
2. Tur Dal       ( togari bele )                             2 cups
3. Finely chopped sabbasige                             1 bunch
4. Finely chopped menthe soppu  (fenugreek)    1 bunch
5. Finely chopped  Pudina  soppu (mint)            ½ bunch
6. Finely chopped  coriander lea                        ½ bunch
7. Green chillies                                              10 – 15 ( depending on your taste )
8. Hing powder                                                1 teaspoon
9. Haldi powder                                               1 teaspoon
10. Baking soda                                              a pinch
11. Jeera                                                        2 tablespoon
12. Salt to taste

You can add 4 finely chopped onions too. Though on festivals I prepare nuchinundes without onions I always use them on Sundays and holidays as they greatly enhance the taste.

For  Huli   :

Monday, 12 November 2012

Deepavali.. With Besan Undi, Chakkli and chooda !!!
The festival of lights and stars is here again. Lights, sweet and celebration! Lamps painted with colours and decorated with glasses!

But the name deepavali painting  brings back another memory. That of my Amma painting the bathroom before every deepavali with white and clay mud.Then filling the water in HANDE with fresh water and decorating with delicate rangolis and diyas. Not only the  bathroom but the entire house was filled with beautiful intricate rangoli designs and light from the earthen diyas throwing wonderful rhapsody of light on the dark nights. What a wonderful way of celebrating and worshiping the elements!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Spinal Surgery

I am back! After a hiatus of almost one month, back with a better BACK !

Many a friends of mine always used to gush that I am their source of  strength, their inspiration, and their backbone! ( Hey! Promise. I am not joking, but telling this with utmost humility. Please read on!) What an irony! I myself did not have a perfect backbone! verbatim! Instead of sitting pretty and straight, my backbone had twisted a little. It was a manufacturing defect! From its normal ideal curve, a part of the spine  had twisted by 3.3 mm since birth. I used to have back ache since childhood and had accepted it as my alter ego. But three years ago a disk had slipped on the twisted bone.

You know how it is? Like you will be sitting on the ground in a crowded temple or bhajana mandir in sukhasana very close to each other. The person sitting next to you will put her knees on yours. It will be heavy and painful. Either you lift your leg or bear the burden. If you lift  your knee, you will have no place to put it back or else keep back on that person's knee who in turn will do the same to you! You are doomed either way!

Literally I ate tonnes of medicines - allopathic, ayurvedic, homeopathic - got massages, physio and naturopathy, did yoga, Reiki - you name it and I had done it to get a relief from my pain. Then I reached the dead end - a stage of extreme unbearable pain, when I prayed Lord Raghavendra to bless me with a permanent solution. When the pain further aggravated, I knew I had reached the end of the tunnel and there has to be some light at the end. Sure there was - in the form of Dr.Sujay Rao of St.Philomena's - a God unto himself. So confident was he and such a confidence he instilled in me that I 
underwent spinal correction operation on 10 th October. I am on my feet, though on a rest of two months.

I am extremely grateful to my family and friends who stood by me and who put me back on my feet. Thanks to God Almighty for giving me the courage and strength to undergo an operation of 7-8 hours.  

I could not help but  to reproduce the wise  words of a nurse at St.Philomena's who chided and consoled me when on my admission to the ward I had tears in my eyes. She said " Don't cry. If you cry you will have tears in your eyes which will blur your vision and you can't see Him "